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DSS Dashboards Spur Business Growth at Irish Life
Irish Life, founded in 1939, is Ireland’s largest life insurer and provider of employee benefit solutions for both the private and public sector. In addition, the company also handles pensions for 595,000 Irish workers and is Ireland’s largest investment manager.
However, Irish Life had a problem. It collected vast amounts of data. It had lots of software to help analyze all this data, but that software wasn’t doing the job. Paul Egan, IT manager at Irish Life, explains that “a lot of the tools were only IT tools and only IT people could use them, but [with those tools] we could never keep up with the appetite the business had for this.” Irish Life needed software that its business managers could use in their decision making without having to become technical specialists.
After looking at the available DSS packages from its incumbent supplier and other software vendors, Irish Life sought advice from consultants at the Gartner Group. The life insurance provider then chose software from Tableau Software of Seattle, Washington, and engaged Tableau partner MXI Computing to help implement that software.
Using the Tableau software, Irish Life could represent data graphically across the organization, mapping patterns and trends more clearly than it could before the company began to use it. It originally made Tableau dashboards available to about 300 users. These users were able to build their own dashboards, to publish on the Web, or distribute on mobile devices running Android or iOS software. The net result, Irish Life believes, was improved decision making due to better availability of data and better insight into the data. The Intelligence and Design stages of decision making are especially well positioned to benefit from this insight.
For example, Irish Life releases the Personal Lifestyle Strategy program for customized retirement planning within the framework of a corporate pension plan. Making the decisions that were involved in developing this program required detailed analysis of workforce data—exactly what data visualization is suited for.
“Managers can come up with their own dashboards based on the numbers they know they need. There’s less work for IT in the front end: IT now only have to worry about the data warehouse, which is where we can add value. We don’t have to worry about the visuals as much,” added Egan. Insights from the DSS tool have already led to Irish Life moving its management team’s focus in certain cases to product lines or customer accounts that needed closer attention.
The results are that Irish Life has been able to offer improved products and services. Customers can speak with better-informed financial experts or they can go online and access their own pension information and estimate what financial resources they will have in the future depending on their own pension choices. As a result, Irish Life has almost tripled its customer base since it first adopted the system.
Discussion Questions
1. Irish Life had a business software that was only accessible to the members of the IT department. Why was this a problem?
2. What steps can companies take to make sure that the users of a DSS system are able to use it effectively?
Critical Thinking Questions
1. What data do financial experts at a company like Irish Life have to analyze and present to clients? What analyses must the DSS system provide the experts so they can help customers?
2. Irish Life is now offering online tools that enable customers to access pension information themselves. What are the advantages of providing these online tools to the customers? What advantages do financial experts with access to the more sophisticated DSS tools offer above and beyond these online tools?

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